By Mary Lowengard
WHAT’S IN the name of a Bucknoll cottage? Apparently a lot. When I bought my cottage, I thought it had a name: 84 Fales Drive.
Silly me. 84 Fales Drive is not a name, it’s a destination. It’s where the firefighter, police or (Lord forbid) undertaker heads when you call 911.
At some point a year or two into my tenure, I clued in that cottages in Bucknoll have actual name names. Mellifluous, romantic appellations such as Ha’pennydell, evoking the place a farmer might reside while waiting to take a wife, purchased for a ha’penny (the dell, not the wife), though I suspect the current owners might beg to differ, at least on the pricing. The ha’penny coin went out of circulation in 1857.
Great Scott! What’s in a Name?
My constant companions Danielle and Gene bought their cottage fully aware of its Bucknoll designation, Mountrose. They maintain it’s a fun wordplay on the 1819 potboiler titled A Legend of Montrose by Sir Walter Scott of Ivanhoe fame. Out of idle curiosity, I looked up the book and read the first sentence: “It was during the period of that great and bloody Civil War which agitated Britain during the seventeenth century, that our tale has its commencement.” Sir Walter must have been in a Teutonic frame of mind when he composed the work. I didn’t get any further. Inverse construction excites me not. Even less than tales of 17th-century Highland society.
On the other hand, Gene and Dani may have gotten lucky. Their cottage could have been named after any of the other 27 Waverley novels penned by Sir Walter. Montrose, his ninth, is several shades better a name for a Bucknoll cottage than The Black Dwarf or for that matter Castle Dangerous or even Kenilworth. Romantic-sounding as that last one may be, it does call to mind a New Jersey suburb, location of the Capri Institute of Hair Design. Which, in fact, was named after Scott’s book. Kenilworth, that is; not Capri.
As any third-grader learns, connotation often trumps denotation. If an ambitious hut is designated as Radcliffe, possibly because it sits on top of a cliff and is quite, well, rad up there, for me it will always call to mind the defunct women’s college consumed by Harvard University that I didn’t apply to because my grades weren’t good enough. Were I a decade or two younger, of course, the Radcliffe would connote Harry Potter himself, incarnate.
Hipster ‘Hoods and Stripper Names
Stonehedge suggests This is Spinal Tap, and I do wonder if, back in 1980, the buyers of the cottage christened Bushwick foresaw how hip Bushwick in Brooklyn might become. If so, I’d like to know how they feel about the potential for East Harlem.
I was happily moseying along in my nameless cottage when I received a communiqué from Bucknoll management. They requested that I submit forthwith the name, or a name, for my cottage along with my own particulars for the year’s updated Bucknoll Directory, a sort of local social register for the community, minus the “polite society” overtones that the Social Register implies. Those whose cottages lacked a name were encouraged to get with the program forthwith. Dilatory Domiciles, indeed.
Never one to take a deadline seriously, I missed it. Then, about half a year later the guilt set in and I decided to at least try to come up with a name for my cottage.
It would be a whole lot easier if there were a straightforward formula, like the one to determine one’s stripper name, which is to combine the name of your first pet with that of the first street you lived on and voila! Enchanté, I’m Honey Bear Wilshire.
I started my name quest by considering existing Bucknoll monikers. These fall into a couple of categories.
Names With Deep Meaning
Some lean to the descriptive, such as Serenity, wishful thinking for a cottage on the main thoroughfare, and Peek-a-Boo, one hidden behind a charmingly unruly cluster of viburnum. (Yes, I had to look that up.)
Others incorporate owner names: Foxcroft is owned by, obviously, the Fox family, and the slyly named Wolf Hall, owned not by wolves but rather the Mantels. Blackgate (not to be confused with Water- or Bridge-) is where Johnny and Roberta Black hang loose. The clever concatenation of Ben Thomas and Lilly Lester’s names has yielded Tomless.
Scottish titles are more than a wee bit popular. There’s Braeloch, evoking a Scottish hill with a lake nearby, or a much-maligned Shakespeare character in The Merchant of Venice. Also, Burntod and Wadi, the former meaning something with a hill and water and the latter indicating a canyon (in the British Isles) or a dry riverbed (in the Middle East).
Then there are the many views: Lowview, Farview, Westview and Longview.
Respect for our furry, trash-trashing four-legged friends is paid via Beardown and The Bearway, the latter, of course, close by the golf course.
The Socratic Solution: Vive la France!
Homage to nature—and perhaps Socrates—is apparent from the cottages bearing signs that read Hemlock Hideaway and Hemlock Home, the former the provenance of the Havilands and the latter the Hills, rendering each an alliterative hat trick.
Given the Francophilic (not to be confused with Frankensteinian) architectural propensity of my mansard-roofed cottage, I seriously considered joining the legions of pretenchie Frenchie noms de maison: Chalet des Poconos and the Chateau Coocoo and the pièce de résistance, the grandiloquent as well as Gallic pun Après Views.
There are traditions and superstitions that also factor into consideration. It’s well known that it is bad luck to rename a boat—in particular please steer clear of Pequod, Speedwell and Lusitania. But what about a cottage? Will the Bucknoll Board please weigh in? And, I learned that Quaker canon frowns upon naming streets (and, by extension, abodes) after people, which may explain such Philadelphian oddities as Moyamensing Avenue (a Lenape word for “pigeon poop”). But, dare I ask, what about the Ben Franklin Parkway?
Last but never least, there are the inscrutables. Like, Ginger Quill. Like, why? This is the name of my buddy Buzz’s cottage and I finally demanded to know what it means. It’s a fly, he tells me. No, nothing to do with Lord of the Flies (as I’d guessed), rather a type of fishing thing. Fishing is one of the areas where I know even less than I do about football and gardening. I still don’t get it. He did send a photo.
Many Options, the Final Answer
So, at this juncture, main contenders were Mansard Manor, South View, Siding Slope and Weathered Heights. My sister suggested Vinyl Haven, in homage to Vinalhaven, Maine. Didn’t really work for me.
Recycled possibilities I considered included The Lion in Summer, my mother’s cutesy allusion to our surname (Löwe = lion in DE) commingled with a bastardization of the title of the 1968 Academy Award-winning film starring Katharine Hepburn. And as a bonus there was already a sign, which graced the family cottage on Nantucket back when there was a family cottage on Nantucket.
But then, one morning in the shower, where all good ideas are born, it came to me: the name that covered something prototypically Bucknollian yet evoked my favorite hotel chain and do-wop group and chamber music pieces. Yes, the Three Seasons would be the perfect tribute to the Bucknoll seasonal cycle of summer, winter and mud.
Now, if I could just expel “Sherry Baby” from my head.
Mary Lowengard really did own a country cottage once upon a time somewhere in Pennsylvania. She changed names to protect the innocent, and thanks KW, JM, JAR and Woody, who made these stories possible. For the full story, click here.